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SuSE Businesses Microsoft

OpenSUSE Opens Up to Questions About the Microsoft Deal 288

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bad-press-machine dept.
NewsForge is reporting on the recent IRC meeting that the OpenSUSE team held to answer a few questions about the controversial deal between Novell and Microsoft. The most prominent questions are highlighted and the complete IRC log is available from the article while the questions that didn't make the discussion will be posted on the OpenSUSE wiki.
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OpenSUSE Opens Up To Questions About the Microsoft Deal

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  • What is this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday November 27, 2006 @11:48PM (#17011580)
    Nov 27 11:20:23 Novell claims to have not acknowledged any patent infringements
    Nov 27 11:20:23 by Linux. But Novell is now paying a tax to Microsoft on the
    Nov 27 11:20:23 Linux distributions it ships. What, exactly, is Novell paying
    Nov 27 11:20:23 for?

    Nov 27 11:21:05 We're paying for the promise that Microsoft made to our customers not to sue them

    Nov 27 11:21:43 Not to sue them for *what*? For problems you don't acknowledge exist?

    Nov 27 11:21:57 Well, we put together an agreement with MS to make Linux and Windows work better together
    Nov 27 11:22:05 Now, as everyone knows, MS has spent the last 10 years saying negative things about Linux
    Nov 27 11:22:11 including implying that there are IP issues in Linux
    Nov 27 11:22:30 It didn't make sense for us to do a partnersihp with MS on interoperability issues and still have this patent cloud hanging around for our customers
    Nov 27 11:22:39 and so MS asked us to put together a patent agreement as well.
    Nov 27 11:23:00 And so, we promise MS's customers that we won't sue them and they promise the same thing to our customres
    Nov 27 11:23:08 They pay us for our promise and we pay them for their promise
    Nov 27 11:23:24 It doesn't matter if the allegations from MSFT are true or not

    Microsoft asked Novell to "put together a patent agreement" so Novell could market that protection to their customers ... at a cost of $40 million from Novell.

    Does Novell often pay millions of dollars for "protection" for its customers when it does not believe that the threat has any substance?

    Microsoft is the one making the threats.
    Novell is paying Microsoft to NOT follow through on threats that Microsoft has yet to substantiate.
    Not to mention the patent battle that could erupt should Microsoft ever file a patent claim against anyone using Linux.

    WTF?
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mordors9 (665662) on Monday November 27, 2006 @11:56PM (#17011644)
    Using language like this, it makes it sound like a RICO case should be launched.
  • Stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dotslashdot (694478) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:01AM (#17011678)
    Thanks to some opensource proponent (was it the FSF?), MS knows where to look to find infringing code in the kernel! Someone did an analysis (to prevent software patents, which was not going to work in the U.S.) to convince every linux user that patents were bad by demonstrating how the linux kernel potentially infringed on 200+ patents. You're going to say "potential," but NO opensource developer will have the $ to defend themselves against MS. I predict MS is going to start suing like a motherfucker and linux is going to go away.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by G Money (12364) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:03AM (#17011690) Homepage
    The balance of payments are by far in Novell's favor from what I've seen. I don't remember the exact numbers but Microsoft is paying far more than Novell is paying them for the patent agreement. It isn't costing Novell anything to add the patent agreement, in fact, they're making a lot of money from Microsoft by doing it. It still seems like a weird deal but Microsoft is the one paying Novell not the other way around.
  • by invisik (227250) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:14AM (#17011774) Homepage

    I was able to attend the meeting this morning and feel the text of this slashdot story is a little misleading.

    People who are unable to attend can post their questions in the wiki before the meeting (the wiki link in the article). The questions in the wiki were reviewed during the meeting, and many were addressed. Some, however, were not specifically addressed as they were answered during the live Q&A earlier in the meeting. Therefore, all of the questions (live and on the wiki) were addressed in one way or another.

    That being said, I think it was great to hear from Nat directly.

    -m
  • Scripted by PR? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn@earthlin k . n et> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:16AM (#17011784)
    This think reads like it was scripted by the PR department.

    Also, I notice that they had things rigged so that they could censor any questions they didn't like. (Reasonable, an open forum would have been a mad house, but not exactly a process that builds trust.)

    They also didn't say anything about which of their customers could redistribute what. The short answer appears to be "We aren't interested in developers."
  • Re:protection racket (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ewl1217 (922107) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:16AM (#17011786)
    That's completely wrong. Microsoft is suggesting that Novell needs protection from being sued. Unlike robbing someone, suing someone is a perfectly valid legal process. Legally, as far as I know and barring possible monopoly abuse, there's nothing wrong with what Microsoft is doing. Ethically, morally, logically, and ideologically, it's a completely different issue.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:23AM (#17011828)
    The balance of payments are by far in Novell's favor from what I've seen. I don't remember the exact numbers but Microsoft is paying far more than Novell is paying them for the patent agreement.

    Yes, that is correct.

    Microsoft is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for SuSE support licenses. Far more than Novell is paying Microsoft.

    Now, when was the last time anyone tried to buy SuSE from Microsoft? Has anyone here tried to? No?

    Okay, when was the last time anyone called Microsoft's tech support about a SuSE issue? Has anyone here tried that? No?

    Well, it seems that Microsoft paid a LOT of money for licenses that it will probably never use and didn't seem to need in the past. You might want to look up the history of the SCO lawsuit and see how Microsoft also paid for SCO licenses that Microsoft will probably never use and didn't seem to need prior to that.

    So, it looks like Microsoft paid for Novell's signature on that "patent agreement". Novell couldn't say "no" to that big of an instant payoff.

    Now, go back and read about Microsoft's other "partners" and how Microsoft treated them. There isn't any reason to believe that Microsoft is suddenly going to play nice and fair with Linux (or Novell). Microsoft's who business model is based upon their monopolistic control of the desktop.
  • by Azureflare (645778) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:31AM (#17011880)
    5. This deal does not violate GPLv2.
    Eben Moglen read our agreement and hasn't said a thing about GPLv2 violation. It's abundantly clear that he doesn't think there is any.
    Instead, he and Richard are using the community energy to try to get people to adopt the previously-controversial GPLv3 (which we support also)

    Hey, this is actually a cool way to get GPLv3 accepted. Reading over the log, and seeing their responses, I feel a bit better about the deal. I'm still suspicious but I'm no longer at the point where I am ready to remove openSuSE from my system and install debian.

    I really hope this works out, Novell has done a lot of great things in the past and I would like to see them continue their good work.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quantam (870027) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:46AM (#17011986) Homepage
    Novell is paying for their customers' peace of mind. Regardless of what Novell says (or what may be true), MS says that Linux violates MS' IP, implying that MS might sue Linux coders and/or users. That makes Novell's users nervous. They want guarantees that either MS' claims are false, or MS will not sue them, even if they are true. This contract provides that guarantee.

    While that does vaguely resemble mafia "protection" payments (though not as closely as many Slashdotters seem to believe), I really don't see why people are having such a hard time wrapping their heads around the reason for this deal.

    This is also reminiscent of what was going on in the US during the cold war - everyone building bomb shelters, stockpiling food, etc. The reality was that none of this would have been able to keep anybody alive, had nuclear war broken out. But the fact that people thought it would put their minds at ease, and that made all the difference in the cold war.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:06AM (#17012114) Homepage Journal
    I keep reading this. Seriously, I am going to go over to one of the many patent registry websites and search for Microsoft patents and post one or two that Linux violates if you people don't stop parroting this shit. There is absolutely, positively, no doubt that any given Linux distribution violates at least a few of Microsoft's patents. That's the whole freakin' reason why patents on software is a dumb idea. It is also the reason why Microsoft will never enforce their patents as you can say the same thing about Microsoft's products and IBM's patents. STFU about Linux not infringing on Microsoft's patents.
  • This is unusual (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:12AM (#17012526) Homepage Journal
    In what feels like 10 years of participating on Slashdot, I have never come upon a post which makes its point so excellently, and also contains so many F-words. Those two things have been mutually exclusive. Until now.

    Do me a favor. Take your anger here [techp.org] for a moment and help me out, if you haven't done so yet. But no F-words there, please, it would detract from the document. Even if Novell tosses it off, it's point is already made to a lot of Novell users and VARs and investors and the press. They've been calling me.

    Bruce

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:22AM (#17012614) Homepage Journal
    What in the world is "MS-patented code" or "patented code" in the first place?

    Code which practices an algorithm or other technique which is claimed in a patent owned by MS. And MS knows it, and now it's in your program. Sounds risky.

    Bruce

  • Re:My Rant. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:27AM (#17012634) Journal
    I think you proved their point. The deal essentially says that a lawsuit can happen but novell customers or noncommercial devlopers will not be sued. it does not contrary to your well thought out rant, provide any evidence that there is any infringing code and microsoft made it clear that they understood that to be novell's position. If you listen to microsoft's fud and take it as truth thats *your* fault. Emotion is ... not logical. Novell simply went one step farther than redhat or hp did by offering protection against lawsuits by actually getting a promise from a company. A potential lawsuit would kill mircorsoft as well if you read the transcript you would have been reminded of the microsoft linspire lawsuit that went so well for them. Also note that the much hates sco case has also gone along way in setting president. And its not looking good for people trying to "discover" infringing code in linux.
  • Game Theory Wise... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:53AM (#17012780)
    its quite simple what Microsoft is up to....you see, according to game theory, a threat is only going to change the course of someones actions if it is credible, i.e. the other person thinks you will carry it out...so, in a lot of scenarios, the default textbook example being used being a nuclear holocaust scenario, a superpower using its nukes in response to some small event is not credible....for the simple reason that the other side will nuke back and the payoffs just dont make sense...or for instance when a child threatens to jump off a building cause it didnt get ice cream for pudding...te payoffs for it are so bad, that its threat isnt credible.

    So, what to do what to do in this situation where my drastic course of action is not perceived as credible, being too over the top with horrendous payoffs? Simple. I scale down the size of the threat until it becomes credible that i might do it by making it a probabilistic threat...i.e.

    "If you guys are not covered by my uber shiny end user patent agreement covenant there is the possibility that i might sue you...i dont know, i might, i might not...etc etc"....

    That ladies and gentleman, plain and simple is what Microsoft is trying to do...they know a threat to sue linux developers or end users is not feasible because IBM would serve their rectums up to them on a plate for breakfast (owning as many if not more patents than they do) (i.e. that threat is not credible)...so they scale down the threat by introducing the possibility that end users might get sued (maybe, maybe not who knows)....voila the threat is a credible one, and theyve made a threat which might discourage end users from using linux....
  • by vojtech (565680) <vojtech@suse.cz> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:20AM (#17013250)
    A few points:

    • The patent covenant agreement alone is cash positive for Novell, sales of SLES by MS not included.
    • Microsoft is contractually required to sell those SLES coupons, and failing that, it would create a reason for the termination of the agreement.
    • Microsoft didn't pay for any licenses, only for the right and obligation to sell SLES to its own customers.
    • Novell doesn't at all expect to be treated nice by Microsoft. And it isn't. Your post, attacking Novell, clearly shows that Microsoft's strategy is working. What's the best way to hurt an open-source company? Make a few remarks that turn its community against it.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by killjoe (766577) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:21AM (#17013258)
    Why don't we do that. Why don't we put together a web site that lists all of MS patents and then declare open season on them. Let's invalidate all of them by digging up prior art. This is a fantastic opportunity for the OSS community to launch an DDOS on MS patents.

    Once MS sees it's patents start being picked apart by the community they will start to panic, it will be fun to watch.
  • by vojtech (565680) <vojtech@suse.cz> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:36AM (#17013322)
    At SuSE (now part of Novell), we have implemented a number of open-source drivers based on specs we based on documentation received under some kind of contract, including NDAs.

    We always made sure that the contract contained a clause that we're free to use any information we received this way to implement and distribute a driver under the terms of the GPL, and that the other party knows about that and agrees to it. This implies that there either are no patent claims on that code, or that the relevant patents are licensed to every potential recipient of the code automatically.

    We are not going to change that policy.

    Btw, points 1-3 don't protect anyone from having potential patent issues, they can only help with copyright issues. For patents, it doesn't matter how you arrived to implementing one of those.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @06:13AM (#17013920) Homepage Journal
    Fine. Go here [uspto.gov], enter these numbers:

    7,143,340 - a patent on the MVC pattern applied to tables in GUI. I know both the Qt and gtk+ toolkits do that.
    7,139,894 - that patent covers just about any interprocess communication that transmits "configuration information".
    7,131,112 - and here's a patent which covers basically every revision control software ever written (cvs, svn, git, etc)

    That's 3 of 5873. Go to this page [uspto.gov], enter "Microsoft" into Term 1 and select "Assignee Name" for Field 1 if you wanna see the list.

    Enjoy.
  • by Nat Friedman (31798) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @06:18AM (#17013958) Homepage

    People keep saying this, but there are counterexamples.

    In 1997 Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple. The deal also involved a promise from Microsoft to make Office available on Macintoshes, and there was a patent agreement as well. Bill Gates appeared on the big screen at MacWorld to jeers and shouts. People said Apple had done a deal with the devil and was dead. But in fact the deal gave Apple the money and the breathing room to build itself up and they are far from dead now (though not the most open company in the world, obviously).

    In 2004 Sun did a deal with Microsoft, were paid $1 billion, and signed a patent agreement with MS as well. This month they announced they are GPLing Java.

    So while I agree that MS is a dangerous company and you have to be careful when you do anything with them, it's simply not true that doing a deal with them is always fatal.
  • Your rant (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nat Friedman (31798) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @06:56AM (#17014168) Homepage

    Novell has not provided any useful precedent or other legal ammunition that ANYONE can use in ANY court case. We didn't acknowledge that there are any MS patents infringed by Linux. So this court case you're screaming about is totally unaffected by the Novell/MS deal. Microsoft has been spreading FUD that Linux infringes MS IP for years -- nothing changed in that respect here.

    Another point I want to make. Open Source Risk Management is a company that makes its money by selling insurance on Linux IP infringement. So if you're worried that Linux infringes someone's IP, you buy their products. Two years ago OSRM went off and funded a study by Dan Ravicher -- whose PubPat is in my view a great organization -- that looked at Linux to determine whether it actually violates anyone's software patents. Then in August of 2004 (a few months after Bruce Perens joined their board, I might add), OSRM published a study stating that Linux infringes 283 patents, 27 from Microsoft. You can read about it here:
    http://news.com.com/Group+Linux+potentially+infrin ges+283+patents/2100-7344_3-5291403.html [com.com]

    Here is a company that sells Linux IP insurance and therefore directly benefits financially from people's fear over Linux patent FUD, so they publish these ominous statements about Linux infringing hundreds of patents! This is realy work done by real people to examine specific patents and determine whether Linux infringes them or not.

    On the other hand you have Novell who make NO such statement, who directly contradict Microsoft in the press when Ballmer goes off and says things like this.

    So pardon me, but I think it's worth looking at the whole picture here.

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